Press Release
October 23, 2018

Koko says he can seek reelection, adds he never consulted Topacio

Senate Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship Committee Chairperson Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III on Tuesday welcomed the filing of a disqualification case against him by notorious lawyer Ferdinand Topacio at the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), saying that this development "will pave the way for this issue to be settled, so we can focus on the issues that really matter to our people."

The PDP Laban President denied, however, that he had ever consulted Topacio about the legal issues involving his reelection bid, stressing that he would never solicit the views of a lawyer "better known for starting personal squabbles than winning legal battles."

"There is no truth to Atty. Topacio's statement that I consulted him about the legal issues surrounding my candidacy. I have never asked Atty. Topacio for any legal opinion in my entire life. There is a very short list of election lawyers I would consult regarding this matter, and he is not on it," added the senator from Mindanao.

Topacio is known for feuding with public officials, colleagues in the legal community, and members of the media.

The controversial lawyer, known for being an admiriter of Nazi dictator and mass murderer Adolf Hitler, has clashed with former Presidential Management Staff Undersecretary Karen Jimeno, former Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, radio host Mo Twister, and Inquirer columnist Mon Tulfo.

Pimentel also disputed the legal arguments raised by Topacio against his reelection bid and said that the Constitution did not bar him from running the May 2019 midterm polls.

"The Constitution, the law, and jurisprudence are on my side. Well-regarded legal minds known for their expertise in election law have likewise chimed in; they agree with my position: I can run for reelection."

In a forum earlier this month, respected election lawyer Atty. Romulo Macalintal, who is running for a Senate seat with the opposition, said that Pimentel's first years as a senator should not be counted.

According to Macalintal it is "clear in the Constitution" that the term of office of a senator shall be six years.

"In order to be counted, there should be no gap in the service... if you don't complete the six years not of your doing, you can run again," he said.

In August 2011, Miguel Zubiri resigned from the Senate amid the poll protest case filed against him by Pimentel in connection with the results of the 2007 senatorial race. Pimentel replaced Zubiri and continued the latter's unfinished term.

"As a senatorial candidate, Atty. Macalintal could stand to benefit from my disqualification, but he has consistently argued that I can run," stressed the senator.

Former COMELEC Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal was likewise asked online during the first day of filing if Pimentel was eligible for reelection. Using his personal Twitter account, Larrazabal answered, "yes he is."

Pimentel explained that a reading of Topacio's petition was indicative of the "shallowness of his arguments."

"The two cases he is citing (1) Aratea v. Comelec, GR No. 195229, Oct. 2012, and (2) Latasa v. Comelec, GR No. 167591, May 2007, are even inapplicable to my situation. In the Aratea Case, the candidate really served three consecutive terms and was even disqualified by a final judgment in a criminal case," said the 1990 Bar topnotcher.

"In the Latasa Case, the three-term municipal mayor ran again for a fourth term when the municipality became a city."

Pimentel said that his lawyers are ready to answer the petition of Topacio and ask for its summary dismissal "as the Constitution and the Law, Jurisprudence, and the basic concept of Fairness all support our position that I can still run again for Senator in the May 2019 elections."

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